A Look Back: Colossal Deaths On Butte Montana’s Deadliest Day
All of us know that Butte is known throughout the world as The Mining City home to the Richest Hill On Earth. But did you know Butte is also home to the biggest metal mining disaster in history?
Granite Mountain Speculator Mine Fire
From Mine Memorial, on June 8, 1917, 410 men entered the Granite Mountain shaft.
The early crew had started to finish work on a sprinkler system that was designed to protect the miners from fire. One of the cables slipped and fell below 2,400 feet. On it's way down, lead covering was torn away and oiled paraffin paper was exposed.
Four men went to examine the damaged cable and one of them accidentally hit his carbide lamp against the oily paper and it quickly caught fire. The Granite Mountain and Speculator Mine shafts were filled with toxic smoke very quickly.
Just over half of the miners in the Granite Mountain shaft escaped to the surface. There was a group of 29 miners who isolated themselves in a bulkhead, and another 8 who hid in a different bulkhead. The miners were trapped from 38 to 50 hours depending on where they were when the fire started.
Surprisingly, only 2 miners were burned to death. The rest of the men died due to suffocation from the fumes.
The death toll was 168.
Butte Came Together For The Rescue
Over 30 miles of drifts and crosscuts, 15 miles of stopes, raises and manways were searched by professionals and townspeople alike. It took just over a week but 155 bodies were found and returned to their families. Not a single rescue worker was injured.
The Mine Remained Open
Ore was mined from Granite Mountain until 1923 when the mine closed for good.